Friday, April 25, 2014

Should college athletes be paid?

This is the way the question is usually posed, but it is a particularly unhelpful way to pose the question. College athletes are already paid; the question is, should they be paid more?

The idea that a college can feed an athlete on scholarship a bagel, and that is OK because the NCAA considers it a "snack", but when you put cream cheese on the bagel, then it is not OK because that is considered a "meal", is  ludicrous on the face of it. Many, many more examples can be given of the ridiculousness of NCAA regulations, but this makes the point quite nicely.

NCAA head Mark Emmert has gone on TV recently defending the ridiculous NCAA rules, and he is surely the most inept person I have ever seen in such a high leadership position. The NCAA and its member institutions have promulgated numerous frivolous arguments to dissuade its athletes and the authorities from determining that the athletes are, in fact, "employees", which they clearly are. One of the most outrageous allegations/threats is that if these employees choose to unionize, their scholarships will henceforth be treated as income, and they will be taxed on it. Whether the scholarship money is income or not will  be determined by IRS law and regulations, and has absolutely nothing to do with whether these employees decide to unionize.

Coaches have talked about how their players have to purchase their own disability insurance, so that if they suffer a career-ending injury, they will be compensated. Coaches have talked about how their star players cannot take their girlfriends out for a movie or a pizza at night. Coaches have talked about how the parents of their players cannot afford to come watch their sons play; or, in the event of a family emergency, the players cannot afford to fly home.

All of these are problems that would be addressed if the players were allowed to unionize and have a say in their future. I support this effort, and I hope it succeeds. The NCAA has a ten billion dollar contract to televise March Madness, and a ten billion dollar contract to televise the football playoffs. To deny this is big business is to perpetrate a fraud on all fans and players.

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